This weekend, bundle up and head out to Rochester’s SocialIce, where the bars, and even the benches, are made of ice, and it’s never too cold for, well, a cold one.
“It’s a Minnesota event, we like to embrace the weather, have that hearty spirit,” said Ender Gocmen, marketing manager for the Rochester Downtown Alliance, which organizes Rochester’s annual SocialIce.
No matter how crazy it might appear to more sane sections of this country, standing outside and ordering drinks at a bar made of ice in the middle of winter seems perfectly natural to Minnesotans.
SocialIce, which starts Thursday and runs through Saturday, has become one of the main events of Rochester’s winter calendar, a not-to-be missed attraction — if only so you can brag about having done it.
“It’s a true Minnesota experience,” said Tom Webbles, of Rochester, who attends SocialIce every year.
It sure was last year, when the opening day of SocialIce turned out to be positively arctic.
“Thursday last year was very cold,” Gocmen said. “We almost called it because it got so cold.”
The temperature when Socialice 2015 opened hovered around 3 above, which was the high for the day, and dropped below zero shortly thereafter. Combined with winds gusting to 18 mph (and higher in the wind tunnel of the Peace Plaza), the conditions were brutal.
That didn’t stop people from showing up, though. Attendance last year was 45,000 over three days, and might have topped 50,000 with more comfortable weather. “It was literally people everywhere,” Gocmen said.
Which brings us to this year. Again, there will be seven bars set up on the Peace Plaza, and there really is no room for more.
“Currently we’re topped out at seven, because of the size of the Peace Plaza, and safety,” Gocmen said. “We want to make sure people can move around, get in and out.”
Also new this year:
— Music all three days by DJs, who will be programming tunes from ice-enclosed booths. Live bands (which had been performing on the enclosed skyway) are no longer are part of the mix. “We’re trying to make it more interactive with the DJ on the Peace Plaza,” Gocmen said.
— The SocialIce photo contest will reward randomly selected entries posted on Instagram and Twitter with $25 gift cards to the participating bars/restaurants. “You don’t have to be a professional,” Gocmen said. “Just have some fun.” Entries will be live-streamed on the Siebens Building for everyone to see.
— If it gets too cold, or if you just need a break, Rochester Trolley & Tour will provide free transportation to and from the participating bars and restaurants.
The weather? Warmer than recent weeks, but still chilly enough to present a Minnesota-style challenge.
“That just adds to the fun,” Webbles said. “The colder the better.”
“It might be cold outside, but we’re going to have fun,” Gocmen said.
Bars pick themes, drinks for SocialIce
Each of the seven bars participating in SocialIce has a theme for the weekend and specialty drinks developed just for this occasion.
Here’s a rundown:
Chesters — Theme is the Wizard of Oz: Emerald City. One of three specialty drinks is Lion’s Liquid Courage, which is a hot apple cider mixed drink.
Grand Rounds Brew Pub — Theme is Game of Thrones. Specialty drink is Dragon’s Milk, which is hot chocolate with Brown Jug Bourbon Cream.
Kathy’s Pub — Theme is The Avengers. Three specialty drinks, including the Peppermint Kiss, which is hot chocolate, schnapps, whipped cream and candy.
Salute Wine Bar — Theme is Minnesota Nice. The specialty drink is a root beer float for grown-ups, consisting of root beer and rum ice cream.
The Loop — Theme is Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. Three specialty drinks, including the Willy Wonka, a maple bacon, whipped cream, bourbon and hot chocolate concoction.
The Tap House — Theme is Lucy’s Kissing Booth and the Peanuts Gang. Specialty drink is the Peppermint Patty, which is made with creme de menthe and creme de cocoa.
Victoria’s — Theme is the Enchanted Forest. Three specialty drinks, including Dragon’s Milk (yes, the same name as Grand Rounds’ specialty drink), which is a buttery, chocolate caramel creation, with a hint of cherry.
SocialICE adds thrill to the chill
WHAT: 8th annual SocialICE, a chance to see ice sculptures, light displays and enjoy refreshments at outdoor bars, also made of ice.
WHERE: Peace Plaza in downtown Rochester.
WHEN: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
COST: Free to go all, but the drinks will cost you.
WHO: Anyone who likes to enjoy friends, an ice cold drink and see ice sculptures.
WHY: Why not? It’s winter, a time to have some fun.
MORE INFO: www.downtownrochestermn.com/events/socialice
WEATHER FORECAST: You won’t need your heaviest parkas, but a rain coat might help. The National Weather Service at La Crosse, Wis., forecasts a slight chance of rain and breezy Thursday evening with an overnight low around 37. Friday evening should be partly cloudy with a low around 33, and Saturday evening will be partly cloudy with an overnight low around 29.